Being able to grow food in Walgak – a town in northeast South Sudan, an area once riddled with conflict – is a dream come true for Sarah. A farming-for-peace initiative, backed by the World Food Programme (WFP), has replaced the crackle of gunfire with the thud of hoes as farmers till the soil.
This is surely the safest that Sarah and her community have felt in a long time. Situated in Jonglei, the country’s most isolated and underdeveloped region, Walgak was the scene of political violence and armed conflict for years and because of that, a magnet for jobless young people.
Now, thanks to the peace initiative, a 3km dyke has been built to protect homes from flooding – turning the area into something of an Eden insofar as the merciless climate crisis will allow.
“Everyone in my village farms together now, young and old, men and women,” says Sarah as she strikes the ground. Later, I see her coaching a group of young women on digging through roots and rocks. The community’s nominated her to lead its women’s group, farming for peace.
South Sudan’s journey to a durable peace is going to be a long one. Violence still rages in large parts of the world’s youngest nation, displacing hunger-stricken people already facing the slings and arrows of extreme weather.
While the national peace agreement inches forward, communities in conflict are taking deliberate steps to forge peace with one another through grassroots initiatives supported by the WFP and its partners.